Sarah Thornton reveals in the Economist the secret behind the success of the Hirst sale at Sotheby’s: Russian buyers. In fact, the Russian buyers were, by Thornton’s account, buying in bulk. (So much has happened since the fall of Lehman Brothers that it is almost hard to remember that the margin calls on Russian loans only began in October.)
“Every Russian collector owns a Damien Hirst”, says Maria Baibakova, a Courtauld-trained curator; she also collects with her father, Oleg Baybakov, whose business partner is Mikhail Prokhorov, currently considered Russia’s richest man. “You have to start somewhere. Then you might graduate to a Richard Prince, a Warhol or a Lichtenstein,” she adds. Out of Mr Hirst’s sale at Sotheby’s last September, “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, Ms Baibakova bought a zebra in formaldehyde for £1.1m. Next week her space, Red October Chocolate Factory, will host highlights from Sotheby’s forthcoming spring auctions.
The success of Mr Hirst’s sale, which began the evening that Lehman Brothers collapsed, was in no small part due to collectors from the former Soviet Union. Vladislav Doronin, a Russian property tycoon [who dates Naomi Campbell], bought work, and Alexander Machkevitch, a Kazakh mining magnate, acquired two diamond cabinets, three butterfly paintings and a gold spot canvas for a total of £11.7m. Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel billionaire, is believed to have bought the large fish cabinet, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, for £2.95m. It is one of the 100 works that will be shown in the Hirst retrospective, which opens at Mr Pinchuk’s Art Centre in Kiev next month.
[ . . . ] Victoria Gelfand, a director of Gagosian, an important New York gallery, reports that she has sold art to two new Russian collectors in the past month alone.
The Bear Still Hungers for Art (Economist)